Objective Measurement of Sustainability

last edited by: Ajith Kumar on Mar 16, 2009 12:57 AM login/register to edit this page

If Quality was the key word in the industrial scene of 20th century, Sustainability has taken its place in the next century. After witnessing devastating floods, hurricanes and unbelievable climatic changes in almost all parts of the world, everyone has started taking their own survival a bit more seriously now. Science and Technology personnel have always been advising the politically powerful about the impending disaster for quite some time now. But such predictive advises about theoretical disasters that are far off were never heeded by the ruling elite. But the fury of hurricanes, extent of floods, snowing in deserts and rains in summer has changed their attitudes. The ongoing melt-down of global economy is like a lightning that has struck rulers who are already in peril. Craze for unbridled development is giving way to thoughtful and calibrated development. And all the more important is the Sustainability aspect of each and every new proposal for development.

Unlike Quality, the concept and spirit of Sustainability has crept into almost all fields of human endeavor. Quality made more sense in the manufacturing and services sector, but Sustainability is making much more sense in sectors that are much closer to our day-to-day lives. Suddenly we are looking for sustainable homes to stay, sustainable means of transportation and even sustainable regimes of lifestyle. Sustainability has taken the world by storm but we need to be cautious now itself about its prudent and sensible application. It should not be everything now that can end up as nothing at the end. In Quality we have a similar situation with regard to the function of Quality Assurance in services sector, while Quality Control in manufacturing sector worked wonders. Sustainability as an attribute must not only be defined properly but also be subjected to measurement and that too on an objective basis.

Measurement of any attribute will have elements of subjectivity and objectivity inherent in the system. While the physical tools can ensure elements of objectivity, the personnel who use them will contribute its subjective aspect. In the case of attempting to measure Sustainability, the scenario is all the more complex because it is neither a physical attribute alone nor a feeling of mind alone. It is a combination of both. There is a high chance of subjectivity dominating in its measurement unless we are careful to design a system properly. Effects of subjectivity can be vastly reduced by splitting the measurement criterion into as many objective elements as possible. While this is not an attempt to propose a measurement system for Sustainability, I propose to think aloud on the subject for a while.

In simple terms, Sustainability of any entity is that which sustains. For sustaining anything in this universe we need the following three – continuous power, no internal hesitation and no external resistance. These three broad aspects cover the basic minimum conditions required for the sustainability of anything. In different fields of our activity, we can easily correlate the three aspects with different attributes. Let us take our endeavors in Science and Technology. The elements that would contribute positively to Sustainability will consist of the following:-

A. Less damage to physical environment B. Less cost to build and operate C. More safety to users D. More use of current technology E. More adaptable to future changes F. Less possibility of misuse G. Less taxing on users H. Less damage to cultural environment I. More related to local content J. More and more profitable

Mathematically, we can depict OMIS (Objectively Measured Index of Sustainability) = f(A) + f(B) + ………………+ f(J)

By suitable definition of a scale of 1 to 10 for each of the above parameters A to J, it is easily possible to get an aggregate value of OMIS for any entity. And we can state without any reservations that any entity with an OMIS less than 50 must get rejected automatically as unsuitable.

last edited by: Ajith Kumar on Mar 16, 2009 12:57 AM login/register to edit this page


"Of course the music is a great difficulty. You see, if one plays good music, people don't listen, and if one plays bad music, people don't talk."

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